Classical and Romantic Performing Practice 1750-1900

Classical and Romantic Performing Practice 1750-1900

Classical and Romantic Performing Practice 1750-1900

Classical and Romantic Performing Practice 1750-1900

Synopsis

The past ten years have seen a rapidly growing interest in performing and recording Classical and Romantic music with period instruments; yet the relationship of composers' notation to performing practices during that period has received only sporadic attention from scholars, and many aspects of composers' intentions have remained uncertain. Clive Brown here identifies areas in which musical notation conveyed rather different messages to the musicians for whom it was written than it does to modern performers, and seeks to look beyond the notation to understand how composers might have expected to hear their music realized in performance. There is ample evidence to demonstrate that, in many respects, the sound worlds in which Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, and Brahms created their music was more radically different from ours than is generally assumed. This is an essential book for all performers and students of Classical and Romantic music.

Excerpt

A comprehensive study of Classical and Romantic performing practice would require many volumes and many different authors. An adequate synthesis of the considerable body of recent secondary literature alone would fill more space than the present volume; it would also, perhaps, omit matters considered here. The purpose of this book is to investigate a number of key issues that are particularly relevant to understanding the intentions, expectations, or tacit assumptions of late eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century composers, to consider the extent to which these intentions, expectations, and assumptions may be evident in their notation, and, above all, to identify some of the constantly changing conventions of performance that informed the experience and practice of composers and executants alike.

While a broad range of major issues is examined, some significant matters, such as details of playing technique on individual instruments, methods of conducting, the physical conditions of music-making, and so on, are only touched upon in conjunction with wider issues, or if there are particular insights to offer. The technical specifications of instruments and the changes that took place in these during the period, though vitally important in recreatng the textures and tone colours imagined by eighteenth- and nineteenthcentury composers, have only been referred to where they are directly relevant to questions of performing style. Comprehensiveness has been eschewed in favour of a more thorough investigation of chosen issues.

In another respect the present study acknowledges self-imposed restrictions. Much heat has been generated by philosophical and aesthetic debate about the ways in which theoretical knowledge of historical performing practice has been utilized in the modern concert hall and recording studio; the author's standpoint may become to some extent apparent from the content of this book, but it is not a part of the present purpose to engage directly in that debate. It may, however, be stated as his firm conviction that dogmatism is seldom, if ever, appropriate in matters of musical performance. For much of the period examined here performers' freedom to impress their own personality on the music . . .

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